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Philippine Gold Coins

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The use of gold in the present form of Philippine currency is all but nil, with no existing gold bullion pieces for sale, or any apparent gold bullion being issued by the local mint in the Central Bank of the Philippines. Prior to the modern day however, the Philippines had it fare share of gold coins, and while they are not as numerous or remarkable as the gold coins of the majority of the western world and some parts of the east, they paint a colorful history of the small group of islands that have been the colony or property of one great nation or other throughout history.

The earliest mention of the use of gold as a form of currency dates back to the early 1400s, when Spanish seafarers 'discovered' the Philippines. One Portuguese seafarer, Ferdinand Magellan accidentally landed in the Philippines on March 16, 1521 (in the Island of Homonhon) in his quest to find new sources for spices and goods for King Philip I of Spain. He was killed in a battle with a native chieftain however, and was unsuccessful in his attempt to find a westward route to the Moluccas Spice Islands. Prior to Magellan's 'discovery' of the Philippines and his glimpse of gold currency used by natives in the form of tiny nuggets of gold used for barter however, other traders, especially the Chinese and the Arabians have long since established trading relations with the natives of the island. Their earliest form of gold currency was nothing more than gold nuggets that they gleaned from panning the rich, mineral-laden rivers. Prior to the use of gold nuggets as a form of currency, all types of trade conducted both locally and internationally were done through bartering methods. It was only when trade between the natives and the Chinese flourished that the need for currency became necessary. The idea of currency was further introduced to the natives thanks to the influx of foreigners from Indo-China, Malaysia, and Arabia who settled in, and intermarried with the natives of the populated islands.

The earliest prototype currencies which owe its existence to foreign introduction were gold barter rings – tiny rounds of gold with an incised groove that was introduced to them by the Arabians and the Chinese. [1] These were used extensively in trade, being much in circulation and use until the latter part of the 14th century, where its use, by that time, had dwindled to no more than items of physical adornment. Some 'earrings' and pendants worn by native Datus were actually gold trading rings, but because all items made of gold were perfect de facto currency for tradesmen, even personal adornments could be used for purchase. The earliest and most rudimentary of coins came along much later. Called the piloncito, it is a rustic, rudimentary gold nugget in a roughly rounded shape developed by around the 10th to the 13th century. [2] Like many early 'real' coins, it bore an inscription on the obverse side which some scholars attest to be the phrase Ma-yi written in alibata, the native traditional writing system. Ma-yi was said to have been the name the Chinese used to refer to the Philippines, which may point to a possible Chinese influence in the eventual creation of piloncitos. How these rudimentary coins were made is not known, although it is possible that they were cast in molds and were later inscribed, as extant examples of piloncitos were quite weighty. While the natives did not leave any records of its name in the ancient tongues, the Spanish conquerors who colonized the Philippine islands later gave it the name piloncito, which it came to be called until the latter days of its production and eventual discontinuation. Unlike other ancient coinage, Philippine gold coins show no recorded history of debasement, nor do they show any bearing on the importance of gold purity. Some extant examples of gold rings and pilonictos even contain varying amounts of silver and copper which suggests that the natives did not purify the gold they used as currency.

All subsequent coinages issued in the Philippines since the Spanish conquest would be silver, bronze, and copper coins from Spain, as well as fragmentary coins used by early traders that dates back to the Crusades as shown by Christian iconography (whatever legible symbols that did remain) on the coins. Subsequent coins issued would bear the seal of the United States of America after the fall of the Spanish rule and the introduction of the American Commonwealth. Prior to this, Japanese puppet government coins and bills were also issued, and before it, revolutionary currency developed locally that varied between islands with a run that was never truly realized, and that dwindled almost as fast as it was implemented.

It was not until the election and eventual dictatorship of maverick president Ferdinand Marcos that gold coins would once again be issued in the Philippines as part of his revamp of currency, aptly called 'Bagong Lipunan' (New Society). When president-dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared Proclamation No. 1081 on the 23rd of September, 1972 which demonetized the then existing Pilipino series of currency to be replaced by his own proposed Bagong Lipunanan series. [3] While the majority of his coinage was made with brass-nickel alloy, a number of gold bullion were especially minted under his express orders by the Franklin Mint in the 1970s, with a 1000 pesos, and 5000 pesos gold coin being made with his image in the obverse, and the coat-of-arms of the Philippines in his customized style on the reverse. These gold coins were intended to circulate as legal tender, although their production was extremely limited, and many numismatists considered it no more than commemorative bullion coins. Made of pure gold (.900 fine), they featured both Ferdinand Marcos's bust (in the 1000)[4] and that of himself and his wife, First Lady Imelda Marcos (in the 5000 peso gold bullion). [5] Many other coins issued under the Bagong Lipunan series of coinages would be made from gold, such as the commemorative gold coin expressly minted to honour the visit of late Pope John Paul II in 1981 (with a face value of 1, 500 pesos)[6] , along with other commemorative bullion (World Youth Day, Independence Day, the Landing of MacArthur etc.). After the end of Marcos's dictatorial regime, the number of gold coins issued was all but reduced to nothing, with one notable exception – the 10, 000 pesos commemorative gold coin issued to honour president Corazon Aquino's thwarting of the Marcos dictatorship minted in 1992. [7] This latter gold coin is the largest denomination ever issued in Philippine coinage, and examples of this coin are very rare. Today, no types of gold bullion coin are issued in the Philippines, making Bagong Lipunan gold coins, and the one Aquino gold bullion coin the only gold currency ever to be created in the Philippines. Since the fall of Marcos's dictatorship in 1986, no more gold coins were issued by any other president (the Aquino commemorative coin was commission in 1992 and was not issued during her tenure), and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) no longer create gold coins either for bullion purposes or for use as legal tender. The search for, and collection of Marcos gold coins (the majority of which are extremely beautiful proofs) is considered the crowning glory of any Filipino numismatist owing to their rarity. Some examples of Marcos gold bullion can be bought from the Central Bank in the capital in Manila, while others can be found, albeit rarely, in local stalls run by Muslim traders and can fetch inexorably high prices. Some collectors who were lucky enough to own or to have been handed a gold Marcos coin from their grandparents' time literally keep the coins under lock and key due to their extreme rarity, unparalleled beauty (in stark contrast to the current Philippine currency) and great (current) value.

Philippine Gold Coins - References:

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for © 2012

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